Intro opinion solicitation (long and boring)

Hi, all. I originally joined this forum 4.5 years ago, during a career shift when, at the bright young age of 42, I was seriously considering prepping for med school. In fact, I was ready to sign up for the MCAT. But then, things happened with my health (supposed “adult ADD”, treated for several months with psychological therapy and various drugs, all equally ineffective, turned out to be severe sleep apnea, eventually treated surgically and currently kept under control), we had another baby (surprise!), work issues stemming from the apnea came up and took quite a while to resolve, and so forth.

So here I am, five years later and not much wiser, still wanting to go to med school. I have been keeping occasional tabs on this forum over the years, and I’ve been entertained, inspired, and even touched by the med school diaries kept by others. I think I was especially touched by Terry’s diary, mainly because it was NOT a success story despite his sincere efforts, and I suppose I feel rather unsuccessful and unfulfilled in my professional life despite my own sincere efforts.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this or exactly what I want from those reading. I suppose maybe I just want to express my feelings and read the responses anyone cares to give. Encouragement is always welcome, of course, but what I really want is any insights people have, either to my case specifically or just in general. My wife is the love of my life and has been my closest friend practically since we met, and she is also one of the wisest people I know – but in this she is too close to the situation to give me an outside perspective. (For the record, she supports my overall idea of doing medical school, but not right now, and for very good reason.)


I knew from the time I was four or five that I wanted to be a medical doctor. Seriously. I learned to read at three or four, and by the time I got into school I knew more than any of my classmates about biology, especially human biology. At seven, I scandalized my poor, pregnant first-grade teacher by describing to her how she got the baby in her uterus. By the time I was a high school sophomore, I knew far more about biology than my tenth-grade biology teacher (though that’s more an indictment of him than a praise of myself – the guy taught us that a woman goes through menopause WHEN SHE RUNS OUT OF EGGS). Everyone who knew me knew that I would go to medical school and be a doctor.

So it was no surprise that, when I graduated from high school and went to college, I enrolled as a premed student. (BYU, where I was an undergrad, did not have a separate premed program, so I majored in zoology with a premed emphasis, changing after a year to microbiology with a premed emphasis). I enjoyed school so much that I took my dear sweet time, taking classes like Latin, Spanish, and astronomy just for fun, generally getting As in all classes I cared about, Bs and occasionally Cs in classes I didn’t really care about, and failing to drop some courses and thus getting Es (Fs, in non-BYU terminology) that I had to cover.

I married my wife about a year and a half after we met and started taking a serious reassessment of my academic life. I had known a student who went to the University of Utah’s med school, and he was having severe marital problems that he attributed in large part to the demands of school. I was in my mid-20s by this time, and had come to realize that, while I was reasonably bright, I was a lousy student; ironically, being smart and having it easy in school was a real drawback for me, because I never learned how to discipline myself to study hard in classes that didn’t interest me. And while I was smart, I certainly was not smart enough to learn material that I didn’t study.

Frankly, I was afraid that if I went to medical school, I would lose my marriage and flunk out of med school, or worse yet, kill someone as an incompetent doctor. So I switched my major to something broad that would allow me time to figure out where to go – physics – and gave up on medical school. In grad school, I thought wistfully about my med school career that never was, and ended up in bioengineering, which seemed the perfect marriage of my techy geek interests and my medical interests.

I left school just before getting my thesis signed off, intending to finish it while I worked my first job. Unfortunately, the job was not anything like I had expected; it was a bean-counting job masquerading as an engineering job, and did not even pay enough to keep my family in a small apartment while we paid off our student loans. Worse yet, in my early 30s, I still had not developed the maturity to see the long view or learned how to work through really tough situations. Unsurprisingly, I never finished my thesis rewrites and so never received my MS in bioengineering, despite having taken all the classes (and mostly done very well), done an internship at a large medical center, and completed all my research.

After a year and a half, my company and I mutually agreed that things weren’t working out. I decided to go back to school and develop an early hobby of computer programming into an actual paying job.

Here was my first bit of good news: I went back to school as a full-time student at a small university that offered a “second bachelor’s degree” program, where someone with a bachelor’s degree could take only the core classes for a second degree, without other classes like English or US history, and get a BS degree. I overloaded myself to a ridiculous extent, taking 20 hours the first quarter and 28 hours the second, and got that degree in six months – and managed a GPA of better than 3.9. Finally, it seemed, I had learned how to be a good, focused, hard-working student. And all it had taken was for me to be in my mid-30s, with a wife, two kids, and a failed career behind me.

So I began my new (career) life as a computer guy, adding a couple more kids in. After a while, I decided to try my hand at technical writing. This turned out to be a mixed blessing: on the one hand, I was very good at it and it was reasonably interesting; on the other hand, it was at this point that my apnea flared out of control and I desperately searched to find out what was going on. (I thought my inability to concentrate was some sort of ADD thing, and my doctor was quick to confirm my diagnosis and send me to a psychologist…but that’s another story.) I finally discovered it was sleep apnea, and after several failed treatment attempts, surgery offered me a temporary but much-needed reprieve. After that, I learned to deal with my body’s needs and limitations and got things under control. And so here I am.


Children, family life, and sleep apnea treatments all brought me back into close association with medical practice. My internship at Hershey Medical Center as a grad student had taught me that some doctors are brilliant scientists. My other experience showed me that most doctors are nothing of the sort. They ranged from brilliant to moderately intelligent, but for the most part they were auto mechanics who worked on human beings instead of cars. This is not a criticism: On the contrary, when my car has problems, I don’t want to take it to a mechanical engineer to diagnose and fix. For the most part, medical doctors are highly educated, highly trained, and (generally) highly intelligent diagnosticians with the ability to implement treatment – in short, super-smart auto mechanics for human beings.

This insight (which many of you might dispute – that’s fine, I’m not looking to convince anyone, just telling my own viewpoint) caused me to reflect on medicine and what it offered the human race. It was something I wanted to be a part of, not just as a childhood fantasy but as an adult wanting to be a part of something great and noble. By the time I was in my 40s, I was aware that I had finally developed the academic maturity and skill set to succeed in medical school. But by that time, I had four (soon to be five) children, a mortgage, and a wife who had sacrificed her own PhD and career goals to support me in my efforts and be a stay-at-home mom and educator to our children. I felt that insisting on medical school would be a very selfish thing to do. My lovely wife agreed that if our financial situation were sufficiently stable, she would support me in that. But this was the mid-00s, with the economy tanked. I was fortunate to have good employment at all, and though we have always been frugal, making lots of money has never been one of my gifts.

So here I sit. I’m working at a really good job, with a boss who is as nice as anyone I have ever had, coworkers who are really great, and a company that is the best I have ever worked for. My pay, though perhaps not impressive (especially compared to an MD’s), is the best money I have ever made on salary. I work in an office building with a spectacular view of Puget Sound. In short, things could hardly be better. Yet here I sit, hour after hour, reading the stories of others doing what I only dream of doing, and wishing I could somehow be a part of it, too. What a fool, missing the beauty of real life while fantasizing about a life I intentionally (and, at the time, correctly) bypassed!

I dream of how I might get reinvolved in this area. I could get a Master’s degree with my company paying much of the cost. If I got an MS in computer science, I could then do PhD work in a combined CS/Bioe field, completing what I left behind fifteen years ago. That work might allow me to do medical research, which could lead to medical school. I might actually like research better than doctoring, anyway…

I took the practice MCAT a week or two ago, with no preparation, completely cold. Just took a couple of hours out for lunch and answered the questions. I do not know how indicative the practice MCAT is of the real thing, but for whatever it’s worth, I scored 12 physical science, 11 verbal, 9 biology – obviously weak on the advanced chem and on much of the biology. (Hard to account for the relatively weak verbal score, something I thought myself strong in.) I gather that these are decent, though not sterling, scores. I am sure that with a few months of review and reading a good organic chem textbook, I could do significantly better. My undergrad GPA is not great, around 3.4, though my more recent CS undergrad GPA of 3.93 is much stronger.

I value my privacy, and I know I have put so much information in this post that anyone who really cared to try could easily find out who I am. (Please don’t. ) But at this point, I really want to figure out what my best options are, and how this whole sorry mess looks to other people. Am I a fool for even considering medical school at 47, given that I’m already living the dream life of having a loving, beautiful wife and five amazing children? Is this anything more than a puerile, middle-age tantrum? Realistically, even if we decided to follow through on this, I would not be in a position to go until I was 49 or 50. At what point do you say “Give it up” and just accept present reality instead of trying to force life to fit your preconceived mold?

Opinions, insights, even criticisms welcome.

Hi there

I have read your story with interest. Of course and from what you say, you would die sad if you didn’t go or at least attempt to go to Med School. We have repeated many times on these forums that age is not a factor because you will get older whether you go or not to med school.

Second if you keep thinking about med school, I’d say just do it. Others have shared their (successful) stories, I see no reason why you couldn’t be successful achieving your dream.

Now as far as the financial, health and family issues, that’s pretty much something that all of us experience and I guess there is no magic answers to that.

For the record I have a PhD in Biochem, and an MBA. I wanted to ditch my full time research stuff (quite interesting I might add) because I was not happy and fate helped me a big deal I must say (between my green card, my second kid, a lab relocation, a part-time teaching job with a decent pay). So now, I am retaking my pre-reqs and while I might be a few years younger than you, the issues I face are ery similar to yours yours (perhaps expect for major health concerns). And honestly, most of the folks here are in very similar situation, sometimes more difficult and sometimes easier. But overall, life happened to all of us and yet we are all foolish enough to pursue a long life dream that somehow we all share.

So, are we all crazy? I’d say to a certain extent yes. But unrealistic? Absolutely not, and this forum proves it (member after member).

So I would say that you should plan how you are going to achieve your dream, tighten all the bolts and get started. Perhaps the hardest part won’t be to get there, but make sure that you get yourself set up, that you can do whatever you want without major issues with your family.

The road won’t be easy. There is a chinese saying (that I initially heard in French, and that I am going to try and translate): “The road to happiness is full of hurdles and obstacles. If one walks only during sunny days, one never gets to the end of the road. To get to there, one must also walk when it rains”.

In any event good luck and please let us know.

Thanks for your encouragement. My wife views my resurgence of interest with alarm, and is trying to keep me grounded by pointing out that it’s highly unlikely I’ll be a med student any time soon. (I told her that for my half-hour work commute, I was listening to some MCAT-prep lectures I had borrowed; she wasn’t thrilled.)

On the one hand, she’s right. It is in fact not really likely I’ll be going to med school within the next few years. On the other hand, any chance is better than zero chance, right? And if I don’t investigate and prepare in case the opportunity presents itself, that small chance will turn to zero.


it s a bit like the lottery. If you don’t play, you can’t win.

Seriously, and I don’t mean to minding what is not my business, but it seems that if Med School is your dream, you should go (and fight) for it. Now my wife is kind of very supportive (not that things are easy and great all the time). But at least, we are in agreement and I should pursue this possibility as long as it is reasonable. I am not sure how I could define reasonable as it is very subjective, but we are in agreement and that’s what matters.

For the MCAT lecture, I am using Audio osmosis, really cool. But you score pretty well without reviewing this stuff, so I guess you will do just fine.